Published: 30th July 2020
Names may change, work will go on: How India's education old guard NAAC, AICTE are coping with NEP's changes
A single regulator, the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA), will be set up to regulate in a ‘light but tight’ and facilitative manner, states the new NEP document
One of the key changes which the new National Education Policy will implement is the setting up of a single overarching umbrella body for higher education, which was announced on Wednesday. "A single regulator, the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA), will be set up to regulate in a ‘light but tight’ and facilitative manner, meaning that a few important matters - particularly financial probity, good governance, and full online and offline public disclosure of all finances, procedures, faculty/staff, courses, and educational outcomes - will be very effectively regulated," says the new NEP document released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
Or should we say Ministry of Education?
Currently, higher education is regulated by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and 14 professional councils such as the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Bar Council of India. Commenting on the decision of a single regulatory body, Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman of AICTE told Edex, "I do not know the details yet or how exactly it will happen. The name may not exist but in some other format, the work will continue. The name AICTE may not be there but it is still in place till the act is brought in. This is a policy, it will be implemented before which there will be rigorous discussion, the role of the bodies will be redefined in some way or the other. One of the agencies will become a fully regulatory body, one will become a fully funding body, one will be in charge of accreditation, another body will be there to keep a check on the standards, norms, ask the institutions to follow the regulations."
The new NEP document also states that the primary mechanism to enable such "regulation will be accreditation, focused primarily on basic norms, disclosure, good governance, and outcomes, and it will be carried out by an independent ecosystem of accrediting institutions supervised and overseen by a ‘meta-accrediting’ body, named National Accreditation Authority (NAA). The license to function as an accreditor shall be awarded to an appropriate number of public institutions by the NAA. In the long run, accreditation will become a binary process, as per the extant global practice."
Dr Virander Singh Chauhan, Executive Chairman of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) told Edex that the NAA will be the responsibility of NAAC. "NAAC has gathered a huge amount of data, has given good quality inputs, has created parameters as a benchmark to assess quality, and more. The number of institutions to be assessed or accredited has only increased with time, NAAC can take a, what I would call a fatherly or motherly role in guiding other bodies in conjunction with it. We will continue to do what we have been doing but it will definitely be more de-centralised with the new proposal of setting up a single regulatory body," he added.
The NEP also states that the higher education institutes will be regulated through full online and offline public disclosure of all finances, procedures, faculty/staff, courses, and educational outcomes. Responding to how this would work, Dr Chauhan said, "NAAC already conducts 80 per cent of its assessments online. The idea is to do as much as possible through less human contact and since technology allows you to get everything online, information can be collected easily. If you stop grading people in NAAC, they won't want to look or make things better than what already is. Institutes are being asked to put everything online or on their website in full disclosure. None of the ranking systems like Times Higher Education World University Rankings or QS World University Rankings actually physically go to the universities, they rank you from what is available on the public domain. All private and government institutions should be accountable and put all the academic relevant data on the internet. We can only try to minimise anomalies, cheating with the help of technology and the repercussions should be severe for institutes that don't cooperate."
Dr Chauhan, who was also a part of the NEP's review committee when he was the former chairman of UGC, feels that the decision to set up a single regulatory body will be fruitful. "With too many regulatory bodies it becomes difficult, but we can have multiple verticals and changes have been suggested to the governance of institutes. My personal vision was that our higher education will expand and even double in the next few years like the aim is to achieve a GER of 50 per cent by 2035. We needed a new vision document like the new NEP, which will serve as the base of what to build on," he added.